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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Translation, 2 April 2010
M. Jackson (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
There is a critique on the Penguin Classics version of Inferno that was translated by Robin Kirkpatrick, that stressed the reader found it difficult to enjoy the text due to not feeling sufficiently educated in History and Biblical lore. As for myself, I do not feel that I am particularly educated in these subjects either, but in this Vintage Classic version of Dante's Inferno, I certainly did not find that this affected whether I enjoyed it or not. The commentary put forward by Steve Ellis is very good and it flows well. Where in the past I felt like I would tend to ignore side notes and just wished to get on with the text, I found it very easy to read them and not feel as though I was getting side tracked. All in all, I actually found the text to be a pretty straight forward and easy read. As for the content in Inferno, it chilled me right to the bone and I loved every Canto.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From hell, 24 Mar 2010
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
"Midway life's journey I was made aware/that I had strayed into a dark forest..." Those eerie words open the first cantica of Dante Alighieri's "Inferno," the most famous part of the legendary Divina Comedia. But the stuff going on here is anything but divine, as Dante explores the metaphorical and supernatural horrors of the inferno.

The date is Good Friday of the year 1300, and Dante is lost in a creepy dark forest, being assaulted by a trio of beasts who symbolize his own sins. But suddenly he is rescued ("Not man; man I once was") by the legendary poet Virgil, who takes the despondent Dante under his wing -- and down into Hell.

But this isn't a straightforward hell of flames and dancing devils. Instead, it's a multi-tiered carnival of horrors, where different sins are punished with different means. Opportunists are forever stung by insects, the lustful are trapped in a storm, the greedy are forced to battle against each other, and the violent lie in a river of boiling blood, are transformed into thorn bushes, and are trapped on a volcanic desert.

If nothing else makes you feel like being good, then "The Inferno" might change your mind. The author loads up his "Inferno" with every kind of disgusting, grotesque punishment that you can imagine -- and it's all wrapped up in an allegorical journey of humankind's redemption, not to mention dissing the politics of Italy and Florence.

Along with Virgil -- author of the "Aeneid" -- Dante peppered his Inferno with Greek myth and symbolism. Like the Greek underworld, different punishments await different sins; what's more, there are also appearances by harpies, centaurs, Cerberus and the god Pluto. But the sinners are mostly Dante's contemporaries, from corrupt popes to soldiers.

And Dante's skill as a writer can't be denied -- the grotesque punishments are enough to make your skin crawl ("Fixed in the slime, groan they, 'We were sullen and wroth...'"), and the grand finale is Satan himself, with legendary traitors Brutus, Cassius and Judas sitting in his mouths. (Yes, I said MOUTHS, not "mouth")

More impressive still is his ability to weave the poetry out of symbolism and allegory, without it ever seeming preachy or annoying. Even pre-hell, we have a lion, a leopard and a wolf, which symbolize different sins, and a dark forest that indicates suicidal thoughts. And the punishments themselves usually reflect the person's flaws, such as false prophets having their heads twisted around so they can only see what's behind them. Wicked sense of humor.

Dante's vivid writing and wildly imaginative "inferno" makes this the most fascinating, compelling volume of the Divine Comedy. Never fun, but always spellbinding and complicated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for first-time readers, 27 Jun 2010
This is a review for the Steve Ellis translation of Dante's Inferno.

Long have I tried to find the perfect translation for what is, to my mind, an essential piece of literature. None so far have quite lived up to my expectations; either they stick too rigidly to the text, making the lines themselves garbled and difficult to understand, or they use so much poetic license it's barely Dante's words at all. Maybe I've just been unlucky.
Steve Ellis' version has been the best so far, however. Yes, it's quite sparse. In places, it doesn't really feel like poetry, and occasionally the modern phrasing jars the reader and takes away from the grand feel of the story. But it is clear, concise, and easy to understand, and it's as good a place to start as any for first-time readers of Dante. This isn't my perfect translation, but at least now I can become comfortable with the story before renewing my quest.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true masterpiece, 10 Jan 2010
Both a twisting tale of one man's journey through hell and a perfect allegory of the Guelph-Ghillebine conflict of the 11th and 12th centuries, "Inferno," the first part of Dante's "Divine Comedy" (although the prefix "divine" was not added until the 16th century) follows Dante through the 10 circles of hell, as he follows his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, towards safety from the dark wood of middle life in which he is lost. Both gripping and witty, "Inferno" garauntees a relatively short, yet totally enthralling read.
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Inferno (Vintage Classics)
Inferno (Vintage Classics) by Dante Alighieri
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